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Short Story: Overnight Lookout

They had lingered at the lookout point for too long. Now dusk had turned to night, and ll they had was the light of their dying phones to navigate the twisting hiking trail back to their cars, but nothing warm to protect them from the chill of the night.

The group was split between two sides: brave the night at the lookout point, or brave the trail to their cars. Both sides were equally strong, and in the end it was decided that they would split up, staying or leaving at their own discretion.

“What will you do?” he asked his sister.

She studied the shadowed trail with furrowed brows.

“I’ll take care of the trail group,” she said.

He nodded. “Then I’ll take care of the lookout group.”

“See you tomorrow.”

They went their separate ways. His sister guided the trail group down the tricky path, and he herded the lookout group together to keep warm during the cold night. While the others caught snatches of fitful sleep, he remained wide awake, alert for any news from the other group.

Finally, he received a text.

Arrived at cars. Heading back.

The words lifted a weight off his chest, but the night wasn’t over yet. He kept watch over the lookout group until the sun rose and daylight chased away the cold darkness of the night.

~End~

 

Genre: general

Short Story: Hidden History Held

Best read after Of Caves and Candles, Creative Cave Crawling, and Of Strength and Skills.

 

Everyone came to the caves with their dreams. Dreams of wealth, of glory, of a better life. Holding these dreams, they ventured into the dark caves.

What the outsiders didn’t know was that the caves weren’t discovered, but created. The cave dwellers weren’t real, and neither were the treasures. It was a complicated ruse to draw people to their forgotten skeleton of a town.

But it worked. The influx of people breathed new life into the dying town. Most of the economy was centred around the caves, but other opportunities also appeared to cater for the needs of a growing town.

The original townsfolk continued to maintain the caves in secret. They collected treasures to be sent back into the caves and took on apprentices sworn to secrecy to conjure the cave dwellers that would protect the treasures.

They didn’t know how long they would be able to maintain the ruse, but he hoped that by the time the truth came out, the town would be strong enough to continue existing.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: The Master Key

“We used to be free,” her grandparents would say. “Beyond these mountains is the whole world. If we can find our lost master key, we can be free again.”

For her, who had only ever known the life she now had serving the masters in the mountain basin, it was hard to understand what ‘freedom’ meant. But it was important to everyone else, so she also looked for the fabled key too.

And they found it.

A cube with symbols on each side, small enough to fit in her hand. Each side opened one of the six hidden doorways that connected this place to the outside world.

But finding the master key was just the beginning. They had to bring the key to one of the six hidden doorways without being caught by their masters. Her grandparents still remembered the way out, so in the darkness of the night, they gathered everyone and slipped towards one of the hidden doorways.

The masters were already there.

“You didn’t think we’ll let you go so easily, did you? Hand us the master key.”

The masters were much stronger than them, so they had no choice but to hand over the cube. Before their eyes, the masters smashed the key. Except, the key wouldn’t break, so they kicked it into the river instead.

She didn’t understand what ‘freedom’ meant, but it was important to everyone else, so she chased after the key and jumped in.

The frigid water stole her breath the moment she went under. She pressed her lips together to keep the rest of her breath in. Pushing past the pins and needles in her body from the cold, she swam deeper into the water towards the sinking shadow that was the key to their freedom.

But by the time her fingers closed around the cube, it wasn’t the cube that was a shadow, but everything else. She clutched the cube to her chest as she sunk helplessly into darkness.

When she woke up, it was to unfamiliar faces at a new riverbank and an endless sky.

She was outside.

Her fingers still clutched the master key. She kept it close, and refused to let go even as she slipped back into unconsciousness.

She would return, and she would set her family free.

~End~

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: Of Caves and Candles

Everyone came to the caves with their dreams. Dreams of wealth, of glory, of a better life. Holding these dreams, they ventured into the dark caves.

But there were costs to venturing into the caves. It wasn’t just the danger posed by the cave dwellers, or the fierce competition with the other cave crawlers. In the caves, there were no shops, and even the rare travelling merchant sold wares that were heavily inflated to include their hazard pay. If anyone wanted to succeed in the caves, they had to prepare for everything and anything they could need before they entered, or be prepared to pay an exorbitant price to keep going.

Long ago, he came here as a cave crawler with his dreams, only to find himself completely outclassed by his competitors. It was only luck that allowed him to survive the caves intact, but now he knew that the caves couldn’t grant him the dreams he had come here with.

So he became a chandler. Everyone needed candles to navigate the pitch dark caves. And he didn’t stop at just normal candles. He made candles that produced different coloured flames to detect the different dangers in the caves. Candles that would cleanse the stagnant air and noxious fumes. Candles that could double as bombs or amplifiers with the right accessories.

In time, his candles became a must have for any serious cave crawler. He might not be able to go into the caves, but now the treasures in the caves came to him in exchange for his candles.

It wasn’t the life he expected when he came here, but he was happy all the same.

~End~

Genre: slice of life, fantasy?

 

Related to Creative Cave Crawling, Of Strength and Skills, and Hidden History Held.

Short Story: Triple Trouble

Three pairs of eyes watched intensely as his needle dipped in and out of the jagged wound. Stitch by stitch, he pulled the gap close until worn fabric closed over the yellowed cotton inside.

One loop, two, three, then a knot pulled tight. He snipped the thread and the tucked the free end in.

“There. All done.”

Immediately, three little bodies pounced on him. He raised the newly-mended stuffed elephant above his head and out of reach of the over-excited kids.

“Careful! Remember what just happened?”

The triplets froze at the reminder of the three-way rough play that had almost ripped their stuffed elephant apart. Much more subdued, the triplets reached out for their elephant again. He looked them in the eye, one at a time. Deciding that they had learnt their lesson, he released the elephant to them.

“Thank you big brother!” three voices said in unison. Then the triplets dashed out of his room, eager to return to their interrupted playtime.

He packed the sewing kit and returned it to its usual spot at his bedside table.

For next time.

~End~

Genre: slice of life, family

Short Story: Sky Beneath Her Bed

She wakes at night to light spilling out from under her bed.

How strange.

She shuffles in bed until she lays across it. Then, without touching the floor, she cautiously looks under her bed.

There’s a sky beneath her bed.

Not just a sky. Like looking down the world from an aeroplane, she sees through the clouds valleys, fields, and hills populated by people, trees, buildings, and more.

She wriggles forward and stretch her arm until she can touch the sky. A wispy cat wraps its tail around her fingers.

Coming?

She wriggles the rest of the way off her bed and dives into the sky beneath her bed.

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: Bubble Monster

“I’m home,” she called out as she nudged off her shoes.

No one replied. Everyone else must still be out. She sniffed the air. Something smelled deliciously savoury. Following her nose, she wondered into the kitchen.

And found a bubble monster.

She screamed. Which made it scream. Which made her brother scream. Which made her scream. And the cycle continued until her brother rushed over and slapped his hands over their mouth.

“Stop screaming,” he hissed.

She pulled his hand off her face. “You were screaming too. And what’s this?”

“Homework.”

Homework?

“Accident.”

Accident?

“This isn’t kindergarten. You don’t need to repeat after me,” her brother said.

Something nagged at her. She sniffed the air and followed her nose to… the bubble monster. Now that she had a moment to really¬†look at the monster, it wasn’t just a bubble of unknown stuff, it was made out of stew.

“Is that our dinner?”

A carrot bobbed across the faceless head.

“That’s our dinner.”

She narrowed her eyes at her brother. She took a step forward. He took one back.

“What. Did. You. Do?”

“Magic,” her brother blurted out.

“Yeah right.”

He jabbed the bubble monster with a finger and pulled out a blob of stew. As his finger drew circles in the air, the blob of stew followed, floating easily in the air without touching anything.

“Oh.”

“Yes.”

“How long?”

“Ten minutes? I tried to get dinner, and dinner turned into this.”

A few thoughts sprang to mind.

Did she have magic too?

How would their parents react?

What would they do about the bubble monster?

But more importantly.

“What are we going to do about dinner?”

~End~

 

Genre: fantasy

Short Story: Forgetful People

There was a lunchbox on the table.

Was it hers?

She checked her bag. An identical lunchbox looked up at her.

Not hers. Then…

She pulled out her phone and dialled a familiar number.

“Hey, did you take your lunchbox?”

“Oh no!”

Mystery solved. Her forgetful brother had left his lunch behind. Again. Fortunately for him, their offices were on the same street. It would be a small matter for him to swing by her office and pick it up during lunch break.

She slipped the other lunchbox into her bag and rushed off to catch the train to work.

Only to leave her bag at her seat.

Well, almost leave her bag at her seat. A helpful fellow passenger called after her before she got off the train empty handed.

Haha. That would have been embarrassing.

~End~

 

Genre: slice of life

 

Short Story: Stumbling in the Dark

With careful steps, he felt his way through the dark. His feet didn’t make a sound as he crept heel to toe across the-

Something stabbed his foot. He stumbled at the sharp pain and crashed to the ground.

“Daddy?”

The light switched on. His daughter sat up from her bed.

“Sorry, Love.” He looked down at the broken pieces of what used to be a toy arrow. He swept it aside with his feet. “I’ll fix that later.”

He returned to his daughter’s bed and sat on the chair.

“Lie down. I’ll stay until you go back to sleep,” he said and patted her pillow. She settled back down and her turned off the light.

With a quiet sigh, he leaned back in his chair and prepared for another long wait.

Next time, he would not forget his phone again.

~End~

 

Genre: slice of life, family

Short Story: Elusive Thief

For weeks, things had gone missing from the kitchen table. Specifically, food. Cookies, meat, noodles, dough trimmings, even leftover lemons after zesting them. No one else in the house admitted to taking her food, but if an outsider was the culprit they would be missing much more than just food.

So she set up a surveillance camera and took her dog out for a walk, multiple times, at different times of the week with different bait. But nothing happened. In the end, she just had to make sure she kept her food straightaway and not leave it our for the elusive thief.

Before she kept the camera away, she watched the footage from the beginning of the installation to the end.

She found her thief.

On screen, her own dog pushed a chair away from the kitchen table and jumped on it. With the added height, her dog sniffed around the tabletop, found no food scraps lying around, then hopped back down to the floor. But before the crafty canine left, a swift kick sent the chair back into place.

Her trusty companion… was the thief.

This wasn’t why she paid for puppy school!

~End~

Genre: slice of life

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